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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strength from Within

I have met some amazing people and have heard so many stories of courage and strength and how CrossFit has been huge in the lives of people going through a very difficult time. Sometimes a persons strength has nothing to do with how many plates are on the barbell. Sometimes, it is God's strength from within that shines the brightest.

Recently, I had the honor of meeting Landon Johnson who has such a testimony. Both Landon and his story have truly blessed me. With his permission, I am sharing it you.
Landon and Jaime with baby Callie.

In November 2012, Landon Johnson had big plans. He was training for the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Open with a possible shot at making Regionals, preparing for his Level 1 Certification, and expecting his first child with his wife.

All of that changed for Johnson in just a matter of days.

After a routine check-up, the Johnsons’ doctor informed them that their daughter had not shown as much growth as he would have liked and thought it would be best to schedule a C-section for the next day. 

On November 9, their daughter, Callie, was born at almost 37 weeks, weighing only three pounds eleven ounces. An ultra sound revealed that Callie also had a hole in her heart. Understandably, the Johnsons were shocked but believed that surgery would be able to fix it.

The next day, the Johnsons were dealt another blow. A second doctor said that she noticed characteristics that were similar to Trisomy 18, a chromosomal abnormality, in little Callie.

As a concerned father, the first thing Johnson did was research Trisomy 18 and was devastated to learn that the prognosis wasn’t good. Most babies diagnosed with this condition usually don’t survive past the first year of birth.

“I was just in a state of disbelief. I had all these plans for my daughter,” Johnson said. “I wanted her to grow up, play with Barbies, paint my fingernails, and us go shopping. Now they were telling me I may not see her past one year of life?”

“It hit us hard. You go from excitement to a state of panic in just a day, in just an instant,” Johnson said.

Johnson and his wife, Jaime, made the decision to enjoy every single moment they had with Callie and told the doctors they wanted to take her home.
Landon holding his daughter for the first time.
“We wanted to hold her, love on her and just have her home with us as long we could,” Johnson said.

The day before Thanksgiving 2012, the Johnsons were able to take Callie home.

“Taking care of Callie at home wore us out physically,” Johnson said. “We had a hospice nurse that came in twice a week. Callie was also on oxygen and had to be fed through a tube every four hours, but we wouldn’t have traded any of those moments.”

They cherished every day they had, taking her to see Santa and to the Christmas party at the fire station where Johnson works as a firefighter and paramedic.

“We wanted no regrets,” Johnson said.

On February 7, 2013, Callie passed away at 90 days old.

“My wife woke me up early one morning to tell me that Callie’s breathing sounded funny,” Johnson said. “I woke up to see her take her last breath. I got my stethoscope to listen for her heartbeat. It was the most difficult day of my life.”

Johnson says it was his faith and his relationship with God that helped him through this time. He also discovered how much Callie touched the lives of so many people in her short life.

“At her funeral, I was blown away by how many people showed up,” said Johnson. “People from my gym, I mean, I didn’t even know all their names! I felt bad, but they were there supporting us through this time.”

It was during this difficult time that he said CrossFit became something more to him.

“CrossFit was therapy for me,” Johnson said. “The friends I have made through CrossFit just blew me away. They made me smile. They would tell me daily how much Callie had touched their lives. Talking to people about Callie was healing, and I took every opportunity to talk about her.”

“They are loyal. We suffer together, and we are family,” Johnson said.

CrossFit was also healing for his wife. Jaime had never done CrossFit before Callie’s death, but she credits it with helping her to relieve stress during this difficult time.

One year later, Johnson is now a coach at Over the Mountain CrossFit. 

As a coach he has such a positive attitude and always knows exactly how to push people and get them motivated,” said Clay Adams, owner of OTM CrossFit. ”Landon has been through some tough trials at a young age, and his faith and strength has made us all better people. I can truly speak for everyone at our box and say that he has not only made us stronger physically, but mentally taken us all to a new level. We are blessed to have Landon as a leader and friend.

As Johnson prepares for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Open, he says he has a new perspective on life. He has recently started back competing on the local competition scene, putting his name out there as someone to look out for.

Although he said his support system and coaching is essential to his training, it is his daughter’s memory that drives him most.

“Whenever I get tired, want to quit or drop the bar, I think of Callie and I think, ‘Be strong for her. Push through for her,’ and most days I feel like I can go forever!”

Johnson said his daughter taught him a lot in her short lifetime.

“This situation taught me that life doesn’t always go the way we plan. Life is short. Whether you live 90 days or 90 years, life is still short. If you are not living out your purpose, your calling, it’s going to be wasted,” he said.

As for his ultimate goal in CrossFit, Johnson said he “just want[s] to make Callie proud.”

The Johnsons are currently in the process of adopting and are expecting a son in May.